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Janice Schlau: A day off revitalizes both body and mind

The awareness that I find nothing more peaceful and luxurious than my day off may appear selfish and even insulting to my employer and my clients, I feel.

It’s a well-known fact that in my parish, I hold a position of prominence as rectory chef for two Polish priests and one “Fighting Irish” named Burzynski.

The honor of preparing fine Polish delicacies for highly regarded men of the cloth and their guests is neither a common occupation nor one largely sought after by culinary graduates, to be sure.

Besides the usual suspects – kapusta, pierogi, kielbasa and “Polish penicillin” – seasonal favorites such as zurek have surfaced on the menu as well. Zapiekanka, a popular street food in Poland, has graced the dining room table more often than not.

Yet, amid all this culinary glamour, my car is started before I load the last dinner plate, bar-mop the sink and grab my torba (handbag), running for the door.

You see, I truly treasure every glorious, serene moment away from the “salt mines,” from my first sip of Prosecco to the moment my pencil scratches my sketch pad; when the watercolor brushes a lush tint of blue I’ve seldom perceived.

Summer in the suburbs is comforting, as I inhale with much gusto every fragrant nanosecond outdoors. Cooking, for certain, is a calling that consumes my old Polish heart and provides soothing balm for the aching, desperate and suffering soul – just until quitting time!

My day off is therapy and resuscitation, which for me provides perspective that incites creativity while enabling sustenance for the mind. It’s as if I’ve landed on a curious planet of deep discovery called Planet Peace. Arriving intact at the threshold, embracing post-middle age, where common sense trumps frivolity, is no less than a minor miracle, I’ve found.

The backyard is where I prefer to spend most of my lucid hours nowadays, and not just engaged to the garden. The backyard to me is a masterpiece of creation, a retreat, sanctuary and organic spa. Even if I’m not feeling especially productive, I can meditate blissfully on my neighbors’ white socks drying in the window of the apartment high-rise looming large in the foreground and still relax sans guilt.

Time to study the vagrant chipmunks, chirp Polish curses to the dive-bombing robins swooping overhead or plainly stare into space. This is not meant to diminish my garden, where I relish copious moments in awe of the flora. The plantings propagate a mere part of the solace and refuge the body requires as balance to the workaday world.

As these magnificent and succulent summer days draw to a close, the crisp parting of this summer’s ever present bright sun will turn to the cool, mellow tapestry of autumn. So, too, will the change in my clients’ menu:

Hearty bigos, czarnina, sauerbraten with red cabbage, spaetzli and wiener schnitzel will accompany the natural snap in the weather, no doubt.

Being in no rush to rake the leaves or sweep the seedlings, I’ll rely on the sketches of my summer’s sojourn to carry me through. Even so, no matter what temperature Mother Earth supplies, from the soft kisses of springtime, the comforting allure of summer, brisk benevolent fall or wild whiplashes of winter, I will always cherish what even the God of creation took full advantage of on the seventh day, the day off.

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